Tuesday, 09 March 2021 09:14

A great struggle to set something free: Ox poems

Written by
in Poetry
A great struggle to set something free: Ox poems

Martin Hayes presents 5 poems from Ox, his new collection. All images by Gustavius Payne

Ox trust

the oxen bought tickets to the annual oxen versus goats football match
which though having stellar meaning in the ox and goat world
nevertheless had to be played in a secret location
because oxen and goats are not allowed to play football anymore - silly

none of the goats were as forward thinking as the oxen
who because they were armed with infinitesimally bigger brains
had gone and got themselves a coach

the coach was not an ox
or a goat
but an ex-Farmer
who had fallen foul of The National Bank Of Farmer’s interest rates
losing everything

being on hard times
he’d answered an advert in the paper
and after one single clandestine meeting
landed the job
of becoming the oxen’s new football coach

he coached at a higher standard
than any goat or ox had ever done
and tactically
he was aeons ahead of all the goats and oxen
who all had clods for brains

all of the oxen were so happy and excited
they felt sure that with the ex-Farmer’s help
they were going to inflict the heaviest defeat on the goats
in history

on the night before the match
just after the team had been selected
it was revealed to the ex-Farmer
the secret location of tomorrow’s match
and as soon as the coast was clear
the ex-Farmer dialled the manager of The National Bank Of Farmers
offering him information
that would make him very important indeed
but only if The National Bank Of Farmers
gave him back
his farm

at the secret location
all the oxen and goats were slaughtered on the spot
and the only evidence
was the following unfinished sentence
scraped into the floor in blood
by what looked like an oxen’s hoof

once a farmer
always a far…



Ox in hunger worries about his colleague Mole

the starter
a torn-out tongue
tender with the years of grubby language
softening up its muscle

the Earth’s platter
spread with the scorched heads of its occupants mouths agape
stuck in charred-black laughter
from the high temperatures of a sudden cooking

loosened teeth
to be sucked clean of their leftover gum-flesh
hanging on to their upturned roots
as an ache inherits the mouths of all those that are left

the wine
blood upon blood
deep as the dark of Moles’ eyes
after culling

then later
the cream of white fat opened up at Orgreave beautifully rendered
beaten soft and silky
to drip like victory down their iron throats

the feast is never over never done
Ox’s tail still wags within its bones
but he knows it won’t be long
before Farmer will work out a way
to snap it open get in there
and lick at the marrow of his insides



a night in the leaky barn

this Ox and this Cow ate each other
it wasn’t ordered or planned or anything
they just became bored one night
and stoked up a hell of a hunger

gradually he chewed up all of her smiles
kept them in his intestines like eggs in a nest
she delighted in teasing his words
into the microwave
where she nuked them
into seeping bulging-eyed monsters
he munched on her eyes until all she could see was the back of his throat
she steamed away his tongue for that
he filleted of her womb to get her back
she peeled back the rind of his sternum
and licked on the marrowy insides like it were an ice-lolly
he uprooted both of her legs
then sank in up to his neck, the Hyena
she just laid back and laughed louder
sucking clean the mango stone she’d found in his head
he put his hands inside her stomach
and clenched them to fists as tight as he could
she jumped up and down on his eyeballs
as though she was beating meat
he put in the oven her nails and teeth
she brought out her blender and blitzed his penis

he said he was full now
she said she was tired
and besides
it wasn’t fun anymore

so they fell asleep
what was left fitted tightly up against what was left
and never woke up again

until morning
when the strapping into their ploughs
diverted their hunger away
from each other

Ox gets a visit from social services

they visited him once
never needed to knock
the leaky barn not being his
doors were left off latch
inside the filth afflicted
no pictures nailed the wall to yearn a lost heart
and not one but sixty of them stood
swishing their tails staring
at what the walls might bring their still beating hearts
language was not chucked around this place uselessly
everyone knew only one word none of them could quell
none of them!
they were prisoners of their own song
Hunger it was called



Ox dealing with the light

when light comes in through the cracks in the leaky barn
it hurt Ox’s eyes

when light reflects off the steel handle of Farmer’s thwacking stick
Ox’s flanks quiver and tremble

when the low morning light of the sun
reflects off the puddles in the yard
Ox’s heart sinks

when moonlight
bathes the dusty roots with its magic
Ox tosses and turns
thinking that a great spell is being placed upon him

and when the lights of the abattoir
burn through the night from a distance
looking like a search party
coming to the rescue
Ox hasn’t a clue
that is where it will all end

which all helps to prove
when you see an ox
momentarily pause in a field
swishing his head from side to side
like in a great struggle to set something free
there’s no need to worry
about the revolution starting anytime soon
because all it is
is Ox pretending again
that he’s got something going on up there
when really there is only blackness and fog
and the pain from all of this light

Ox is available here.

Read 2573 times Last modified on Thursday, 11 March 2021 19:18
Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes has worked in the courier industry for 30 years. His latest collection is The Things Our Hands Once Stood For, published by Culture Matters.